University of California
Los Angeles, California
Distinguished University Professor
Schools of Medicine and Public Health
Director, Cancer Prevention & Control Research
Associate Director, Population Science
Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center
Member, BCRF Scientific Advisory Board
Identifying breast cancer patients at high risk for long-term consequences of treatment and developing interventions to improve their quality of life.
Breast cancer patients are living longer thanks to the availability of effective therapies. However, these treatments can have long-term side effects that can impact the quality of life for patients following treatment. Dr. Ganz has been at the forefront of describing long-term treatment effects and concerns of breast cancer survivors and leveraged her research to increase awareness and make survivorship an important element to consider when planning clinical trials. Specifically, she focuses on the cognitive function in patients who have persistent memory and concentration problems after undergoing breast cancer treatment. She has also surveyed oncologists to understand how they prepare breast cancer patients for post-treatment survivorship. This has enabled her to test interventions that address the needs of cancer survivors and will ultimately reveal ways to help patients better manage these issues—these studies will therefore have a significant impact on their daily functioning and quality of life.
Dr. Ganz’s overarching research goal is to understand the long term and late effects of breast cancer treatments, why some individuals are at greater risk for persistent symptoms (fatigue, cognitive impairment, depression), and the development and testing of interventions to mitigate these effects. Her team has completed analyses from a study that tested two interventions (survivor education and mindfulness meditation) for younger patients with breast cancer who had elevated symptoms of depression. Both interventions reduced depressive symptoms and demonstrated a reduction in inflammation as an additional benefit. The mindfulness intervention is moving on to a larger clinical trial to test its delivery through digital means to reach more patients. Dr. Ganz and her colleagues are testing the use of oxaloacetate, a biproduct of energy metabolism that has been shown to reduce brain inflammation in laboratory models. Based on these pre-clinical findings and successful phase 1 trials, they launched a phase 2 clinical trial to evaluate oxaloacetate’s potential benefit in helping breast cancer patients with severe cognitive complaints. Nine participants have been enrolled to date. Initial results indicate that patients are clinically benefiting from the medication.
Dr. Ganz and her colleagues will continue to test their mindfulness intervention in a larger clinical trial. In the next year, they expect to reach the accrual goal of 24 to the oxaloacetate clinical trial and evaluate the potential biological mechanism for oxaloacetate benefit. In other studies, her team will build on a prior finding that showed an interaction between genetic dementia risk factors and tamoxifen treatment. They will use existing DNA specimens and neurocognitive tests from the NCI Funded Co-STAR trial for this analysis. This multi-pronged approach will address persistent post-treatment symptoms and provide valuable insights to maximize both the quantity and quality of life after a breast cancer diagnosis.
Patricia A. Ganz, MD, a medical oncologist, has been a member of the faculty of the UCLA School of Medicine since 1978 and the UCLA School of Public Health since 1992. Since 1993 she has been the Director of Cancer Prevention and Control Research at the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center. In 1999 she was awarded an American Cancer Society Clinical Research Professorship for “Enhancing Patient Outcomes across the Cancer Control Continuum.” Dr. Ganz was elected to the Institute of Medicine (IOM) in 2007. She served on the National Cancer Institute Board of Scientific Advisors from 2002-2007 and on the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Board of Directors from 2003-2006. She received the American Cancer Society Medal of Honor in 2010.
Dr. Ganz is a pioneer in the assessment of quality of life in cancer patients and has focused much of her clinical and research efforts in the areas of breast cancer and its prevention. At the Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, she leads the scientific program focused on Patients and Survivors. Her major areas of research include cancer survivorship and late effects of cancer treatment, cancer in the elderly, and quality of care for cancer patients. Dr. Ganz currently serves as Vice Chair of the Institute of Medicine National Cancer Policy Forum and Chaired the 2013 IOM consensus report entitled “Delivering High-Quality Cancer Care: Charting a New Course for a System in Crisis.”
The Estée Lauder Award
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